Paolo Salenga scored twice to spearhead the NU Bulldogs in stunning the FEU Tamaraws, 3-1. The forward scored the first and last goals of the UAAP Season 77 men’s football tournament first round match Sunday afternoon at the Moro Lorenzo Football Field.
Salenga opened the scoring inside the game’s first three minutes. Before that though, Jesus Melliza fired a shot wide- the game’s first chance- less than a minute into the match.
Already having two goals to his name this season, Salenga delivered the first blow of the game courtesy of a brilliant ground shot that went beyond Patrick Rallos’ reach.
It marked the first time this season that the Tamaraws fell behind in action. In response to the early conceded goal, FEU went chance after chance to erase the deficit. At the 12th minute, Eric Giganto almost made NU keeper Hayeson Pepito give away a goal, but the former’s attempt was blocked by the FEU defense off the line.
Back and forth action ensued with the Tamaraws preferring a more patient approach on the attack. On the other hand, the Bulldogs looked content to keep their offense quick and effective. The Tamaraws appeared to have better chances and their pursuit of an equaliser bore fruit at the 39th minute. Audie Menzi launched a deceptive cross that found its way into the goal.
Parity would not last with NU finding the back of the net a minute before the first half ended. Patrick Valenzuela headed in Elgen Antipolo’s cross from the right wing to bring NU back in control. Halftime came soon with FEU still trailing uncharacteristically against NU. Missing Nicolas Ferrer and Reymart Cubon to suspension, FEU had to form a makeshift XI to field in the game.
However, it went worse in the 52nd minute for FEU. Joshua Mulero brought down Salenga inside the box to give NU a chance to expand the lead to two. The in form striker made no mistake to put the UAAP Season 76 champions in uncharted territory.
Several chances fell the way of usual suspects Arnel Amita, Melliza, and Giganto but the impressive NU defense held the lackadaisical Tamaraws constantly in check. A sending off on Alberto Frias in the latter minutes proved to be insufficient to dampen NU’s day. The Bulldogs rounded off the day with a season defining result that Coach Wilhelm Laranas looks to build on in the future.
“Maganda ‘yung offense and defense. Inayos namin ‘yung counterattacking,” disclosed Laranas who added, “target talaga namin ‘yung Final Four kasi alam kong kaya.”
The Bulldogs head into the break on a three way logjam for third with UP and FEU as all of them have seven points each.